Christmas was always a big deal in my house growing up. As children, my brother and I loved getting presents, but that wasn't all of it for me.
My mom was a crafter before she got sick. She used to spend the fall selling the items she made at local craft fairs. I don't know if she made a lot of money or not, but I know it helped to make a nice holiday for us. She would have loved Etsy. I see stuff on there now and think, "My mom could have made that and this woman wants $20 for it!" My mom used to make many presents for us. Some years were not so good, like the pink and white individual tissue pack cozy (I've mentioned this before). One year my brother got a crocheted E.T. doll and I was so jealous ("I liked the movie, too, you know!") so she made me a smaller version and we called him E.T.'s nephew. I can't remember his name though, shame on me. I think it was Wilbur.
Another year, she outdid herself. I had really wanted a Barbie closet and clothes to fill it. My mom took an old Thom McCann shoebox, covered it with contact paper and hung a string. She bought the Barbie hangers, but then she actually crocheted and entire wardrobe for my Kmart Barbie knockoffs. I'm not sure if you've ever tried to crochet, but it's hard enough with regular size yarn. Doing it with what basically amounts to string to make clothes small enough for a Barbie must have been really difficult. That meant so much to me, even as a child.
My mom used to decorate so much. Many of our decorations were hand made. She had carolers, candles with holly around the bases, wreaths, ornaments, and garland, all made of yarn. Some were crocheted, some were plastic canvas. She made our stockings herself. I loved hers, it looked like a fancy Victorian boot. Mine was the classic stocking shape. Every year when I asked why I couldn't have a pretty one like she did, she'd tell me that Santa needed kids to have bigger ones and hers was small. Seemed like a good enough reason for me. My brother's stocking was blue and green, my favorite colors then. Mine was pink and cream (it may have started out white, my parents were smokers, so anything cream in our house COULD have been white at some point) and I used to ask if I could trade with my brother. The answer was no. I believe my father had a fancier one too, light blue and white, in an old fashioned style. This was also not an option for me to take. Pink stocking it was then.
Christmas day was always fun. My brother and I would wake up way too early and then wake up our parents. Every year we'd fight over who woke up our father last year, and every year I'd somehow lose and have to do it. This involved crawling on the floor and reaching up to poke him. As a Vietnam Vet with some pretty wicked PTSD, you didn't dare wake him up while standing next to him unless you wanted to get punched. He didn't mean to, but he was so easily startled that it was ridiculous. After waking them, we'd sit at the top of the stairs, waiting for them to do whatever it is that takes parents SO LONG to get out of bed when you're a kid. We'd inch down little by little to try to get a glimpse of the presents. When we ran downstairs, we'd find an abundance of boxes, all wrapped in the same brown paper wrapping with big Js and Ms on them in green and red markers. Thinking back, I'm sure there wasn't the bounty I remember, but isn't it sweeter to remember it as a bounty?
After gifts, we'd have breakfast. My parents would make bacon, eggs and toast. We'd have juice and they'd have coffee. After breakfast, we'd play with our new toys while everyone got dressed, the Yule log on TV, and that (insert expletive) Julie Andrews Christmas cassette my mother loved so much playing in the background. We'd also start eating some of the goodies that were on the dining room table for guests - Pepperidge Farms cookies and Christmas chocolates my mom used to make. We'd make fun of my mother for liking those stupid anisette cookies she loved - Pfefferneuse or something like that? Those were the worst, but she loved them.
My father's family would come over for a while. We'd see my mom's side of the family later, and they were infinitely more fun than my dad's family. We'd open more presents, play, and just have fun. If my uncle did the cooking, you could count on it being absolutely delicious. Usually my grandparents would come back to our house to see what we had received from Santa. All in all it was a great day. My mom would always ask, "Did you have a nice Christmas?" I hope I always said yes and thank you, but I don't remember that part.
When I was 10, in August of 1986, my parents separated. Shortly after that my mom started showing signs of getting sick. My brother and I were getting older. Christmas was never the same. My mom, for a variety of reasons I'm sure, didn't "put in the effort" to make the day like she used to. At the time I recall her saying something about how we never appreciated anything. But I know she just couldn't do it anymore. I don't blame her or fault her, it's one of the many things from my childhood I look back on that just was.
It's one week until Christmas. I don't think I'm "putting in the effort" like my mom used to when I was my son's age. 30 years from now, when he is about to turn 35, I wonder what Nathan will remember about the holidays and life in general. I hope he remembers that even if I don't decorate like a maniac or hand-make his gifts or make chocolate or bake cookies, or whatever other things Supermoms do, that I love him very much and anything and everything that does get done, is because I love him. I hope that when he remembers Christmas, he remembers all of the great stuff: family, parties with friends, eating cookies after we decorate the tree, writing a letter to Santa and leaving out cookies and carrots. I hope he remembers the love and excitement he feels as a child, long after life gets in the way and the magic of his youth is gone.
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